Vanity Metrics

Fani Sánchez

Written by Fani Sánchez

For those who are new to the world of web analytics, either on the side of those who pay for the reports or on the side of those who produce them, there is a common mistake that goes unnoticed on too many occasions. For all of them, this post may be useful.

When we consider starting a business in the digital world (either with a website, a profile on social networks, an app…) we define with great precision and clarity our objectives and the strategies that we will carry out to achieve them. Why, then, when it comes to measuring its success or failure, do we not also carefully choose the indicators? Why do we tend to let ourselves be fooled by rather empty metrics and KPIs, which alone do not provide a complete answer?

These indicators have a name and are sometimes difficult to distinguish. These are the
vanity metrics
and they have come to eat our brains.

What are Vanity Metrics

What are vanity metricsOr as I call them, zombie metrics. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that vanity metrics are not useful data. Having vanity metrics on your scorecard is by no means a bad thing. But it is necessary to put them in context, ask control questions to these data and, above all, not lose sight of our objectives at any time. When these indicators have a seemingly positive or upward trend, they may be masking real problems with your site. In this way they cloud our reason and our decision making can lead us astray. We are thirsty for brains and the more the better, regardless of quality.
But it’s not all bad. On the other hand, if vanity metrics start to show negative data, it is usually a clear indication that something negative is happening (and that you could possibly have prevented) and you need to take action.

Vanity metrics are easily measurable data but misleading if we do not know how to interpret them accurately.

As the girls from Madrid Geek Girls point out in their post, the term vanity metrics was first introduced by The Lean Startup, the book by Eric Ries, a young Sillicon Valley entrepreneur and expert in new business strategies. He called them so because they are easily measured data, which are not used to make business improvement decisions but to increase your ego. I have more fans! I have more visitors! I have more downloads! You have a KPI working its way through your bony skull to devour your brain and reasoning capacity.

What are Actionable Metrics

On the contrary, actionable metrics are those indicators that tell you what is really happening. Those that are not misleading and provide you with valuable conclusions to correct your strategy. You find them when you ask further questions, when you contextualize the data and when you remember what your business objectives are.

We find actionable metrics in the conversion rates of your website or in indicators where we measure the
of our fan page (do they interact with your publications? do they comment? do they share?).

Cases where vanity metrics have eaten your brains

When choosing the indicators to evaluate the success of your product, never lose sight of the objectives you set yourself

Having more data is not synonymous with having better information. As with everything in life, quality must prevail over quantity. But it is not always easy to discern what are vanity metrics and what are not. We often become obsessed and don’t see beyond that (what Eric Ries called ‘theater of success’) and this is the attitude that needs to be corrected.

To clarify, I will give you a couple of typical examples of vanity-brain-metrics.

  • Number of visits: the number of visits grows on your site. Everything points to the fact that you are on the right track, but have you forgotten what the objective of your site was? If it was to sell, for example, it’s great that you have a lot of visitors, but how many of them buy? Not as many as you thought, right? You will then be interested, for example, in indicators such as bounce rate, exit pages, flow of pages visited or the conversion funnel. These and other indicators will help you know what is wrong with your site and why, and take corrective action.
  • Number of fans: you have more and more fans or followers on your profile. Wonderful! But don’t let vanity metrics eat your brain, remember the purpose of creating those profiles! Branding? to make yourself known or get feedback about your services? Then you will have to ask yourself questions like, have these fans become prescribers of your brand, do they interact with you, do they see your posts, do they throw positive comments without you asking them to, do they come to your website and convert, are they repeat users of your website? To answer all these questions, you can use online reputation monitoring tools. You can use your portal’s web analytics measurement system to find out if the traffic you get from social networks is of quality and converts. Or you can use the statistics tools of each social network to see what kind of posts are liked and which ones are not.

In short…

Vanity metrics often mask underlying problems, but they are not always indicative of them.

Having vanity metrics in your scorecard is not negative. But don’t just stop there. Put them in context and always remember your objectives.

  •  | 
  • Published on
Fani Sánchez
Fani Sánchez
Former senior SEO consultant at Human Level. Graduated in Advertising and Public Relations.

What do you think? Leave a comment

Just in case, your email will not be shown ;)

Related Posts